Friday, 31 August 2007

On Heroes

Spun gold ... Stolen from SMH:
In countless blogs and discussion boards that sprang up in the aftermath of his death, people spoke about Irwin dying while doing what he loved. In their eyes, this fact too made him a hero. I have to say that I find this a rather loose definition, since the same might be said, for instance, about an ageing businessman dying of a heart attack while fornicating in a hotel room.

Welcome Citizen

30 August - Late night shenanigans meant a bit of a hectic morning triying to negotiate myself to the airport - was uncertain about the route I should be taking but got there with minimal fuss and with plenty of time - and only 20CZK as well. Thought it would have been a nice idea to try to organimise adjacent seating with the paternal but somebody was flying Bidness Class and someone else was in the strangly monikered Travel Class (see Cattle or Economy) - spent the next hour tryingto find an open hotspot with little success and got rid of some of the balance of the coinage on expensive and bad coffee before finding myself in a situation that seems to be quite common for me in Prague Airport - late for the plane. Time, as it does, started to get away from me and i'd forgotten how slow the scanners were in letting people to the gates but there was nowt to worry about because as I was waitingto be processed up a flustered and out of breath bidnessman had run up to the end of the queue and I knew that if I missed the plane he'd miss the plane so NWF. After we got ourselves through the bureaucratic security we were quickly rushed through ont the bus that took us out to the propellor powered plane (those things always give me a bit of a start) and I was forced to take my place at the front of the aircraft and the bidnessman took his place at the back in the special section (but the joke was on him - on this plane business class seats ar exactly the same as 'conomy and because they're at the back so they get a bmpier ride - maybe their sandwiches have a slightly higher nutritional content than the Soviet era ones we were fed). Relatively decent flight (well, it was short) and any flight on a propellor plane where you land if a successful one as far as i'm concerned and there was no comment on the fact that there was a Slovakian born in asutralia and an Australian born in slovakia coming through the gates. Picked up at the airport by cousin Vlado and Viktor (which was a pleasant surprise as i'd thought he was working in Prague and considering he's got the strongest English of the local family it was definitely a bonus) and took the road down to the old town of bardejov. More reunions spread out over the afternoon and evening - wave upon wave of high carb, high protein Slovakian food was thrown at me by Auntie Maria - dad too caught up being the centre of attention to translate 'Small Portion!!!!' properly or maybe Maria just knew better. I don't know whether it was the flight, the drive, the excessive food, the shots of vodka, the copious heroin seed cakes or a combination but found myself seriously floundering and did something I never do in order to continue functioning in the later evening. It's a practice I abhore and have avoided scrupulously over the decades and it's so against my nature that I don't even think I can name it in this post.


29 August - The major impression that i've got on the changes since my last visit to Prague is that everything is more crowded, more Western and more expensive. As with much of the travelling on this last journey the touristas seem to be overwhelmingly Spanish students and families and a fair smattering of the Stansted crowd - doing their bit in helpingthe sun set on the British empire. That said, it's no less beautiful - have confined myself to the walking distances of the old city but with two days that's really the only sensible option. Despite having benefited immensely from having the bicyle for most of the cities i've travelled (both Chevette and the Diamant) i'm quite glad not to have her in this city - cobblestones abound and the hills and narrow winding streets would not be fun to negotiate. And this is a walking city when all is said and done. Can't imagine that most of the sites would have changed to much so have been givingthem a cursory once over but did score a brilliant little tour though the Kafka museum and because I found myself stuck in the middle of a student group I only paid half price (huzzah). This meagre saving was quickly destroyed by a desire, nay a need, to sample a proper Czech meal before departure (i'll be eating Slovak from the morrow I presume). Ordered the pork knuckle - having seen some decent one man versions as i've passed through the township but was ill prepared for what was plonked down in front of me - I obviously made the mistake of eating over the past week because starving myself would have been the only way possible to get through this meal - a dish that belonged in some bizarre Goscinny-Uderzo fantasy world than in this one - still, whilst I may no longer be officially of the immortal class I ravaged it like no man of my modest girth should have been able to ravage it. The afternoon included More wanderings with intermittent forays into various apothecaries and optometristaries with the goal of findingsome replacement hard contact cleaning solution with a disturbing lack of success - most places seemed to have soft cleaning solution but nary one was to be found that sold the good stuff. Have complained in a previous post about the lack of support for the RGP wearing populace in Australia -the only solutions available ar in enormous vats that will always expire before they can be fully used - in Canadia they had a brilliant setup, small kits with cleaner, conditioner and a new lens case (the case should be replaced periodically as per my optom's recommendation) for four or five bucks a pop - and the worst thing is that these kits ar available in Australia but they're not sold to the public and ar only given away as a sample pack the FIRST time you get contact lenses. They won't even sell them to you when you shell out hundreds of dollars for a new pair - despite numerous requests and pleadings to various optometrists, dispensers and even the manufactuers i've never been able to get anywhere with them. But here in the Paris of the east it seems impossible to even get the solution. I know that the number of people wearing hard contact lenses has dropped considerably over the years - mainly due to rise of disposable and long wearing softs and the increase in people getting Lasik surgery but there ar some who choose not to go down that path and others (like me) who have no choice but to stick with RGPs because of particular conditions. Sight is one of the most important of the senses and where treatment is available for eye conditions it is a human right - people and institutions may be in the medical industry for profit motives but they have a responsibility to provide proper and adequate treatment for their customers and this includes making the right products available for people to maintain medical devices such as contact lenses. This is a sage that just will not end.
Last night in Prague meant I was obliged to try for a night out - met some Murrican/English, had some excessive consumptions and was attacked on the way home by a very strange woman, but hey, this is Prague and i'm on holiday ...

Wednesday, 29 August 2007


Tis certainly good to stay in a city for more than the obligatory couple of days that is normally reserved for them on my whistestop jetsetting journeys - one can't really say that they've lived in a city when they've only been there for a week but one can get an idea of what it might be like to live there when you try to occupy the lifestyle of a resident. Despite meeting people from all over - a lot of ex-pats and a lot of Germans from elsewhere in the country - I did manage to meet a few locals who were either East Berliners and even a West Berliner or two. Most seemed quite bemused by the fact that they were at the vanguard of one of the most significant political events of the late 20th century - one was 14 when he snuck across the border and got drunk for the first time in his life and another, a Westerner, was on a binge and woke up to find that he'd missed the entire thing. For a capital, I can't quite comprehend how relaxed it is. Almost too relaxed in fact - on several occasions i've found myself strumming the countertop in frustration whilst the store clerk takes each customer in time, blissfully aware of the fact that there are a dozen other customers waiting but knowing that they've got no choice but to keep on waiting. This relaxed attitude towards time seems to flow through to the entire citizenry and i've found myself worried about making a rendesvous while waiiting with friends for another friend to turn up, then having a coffee, perhaps a remedy, a little chat and then sitting around some more ... And so on. The trains might be on time but you'd better allow yourself twice the time to make it there because you won't be.
I can't talk about Berlin without also noting the brilliant conditions it has for getting around - it's a big city but it's flat, has pretty good public transport (not that I used it too much) and the enormously wide streets and footpaths mean there's ample room for cars, pedestrians and, of course, bicycles. The traffic is never that heavy and it's a dream to negotiate on a bike - obviously i'm slightly biased in looking for that in a city but no modern city that's looking to curb an excessive carbon footprint can do so without turning to the only carbon neutral mode of transport that can actually get you where you want to go in a reasonable time.
The personal freedoms that the city's denizens enjoy might be temporary but the fact that you can smoke in most establishments (and not just cigarettes in quite a few places) and bring a dog into a restaurant are just more examples of why the city is a great place to be - one day this will probably change (in fact, the smoking laws are already on their way) but a city that values personal freedom over public liability is a refreshing change from the nanny states that the West seems to be producing.

That Tremendous Genius

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans,
safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after
years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
John Steinbeck


28 August - Had a slightly bleary morning and the decidedly excessive weight and bulk of the rucksack Chrome combination meant I was heading as directly as possible (subject to navigational constraints) to the train station. Had an hour to spare - long enough to get a coffee but too short for any more meaningful tourism so remedied myself in preparation for the journey and had an almost violent encounter with a rail station toilet attendant, i'd managed to reduce my EU coinage to a minimum in preparation for exiting the country so my meagre coin collection was insufficient for the 1 euro turnstile to relieve myself - the attendant would have none of it when I tried to explain that the coins in my hand were the last I had of the realm and I really needed to go to the toilet, which is a human right. Deciding that official antogonism would be unwise at this late stage of the journey took my place on the train and went there. Had the first of what will quite possibly a repeat action of negotiating Czech border guards - the Slovak passport allows relatively seamless transition through the border but the fact that I can't understand the conversation they try to engage me in (a bemused smile, 'No, you are Slovakian?) gives them cause for a more intense scrutiny of the passport and its holder. Upon arrival in Prague I had a little bit of a jourey back ad forth through the statio tryig to fid the Wechsel that offered the least crap exchange rates for euros and also had to seek out some form of non dorm like accommodation. Eventually managed to solve most of the problems and went for a bit of a wander - the maps i'd managed to acquire were not of the best calibre but the city was somewhat familiar (after all, its only been a decade since I was last here) and I managed to make a fairly decent circuit with some local refreshment on the way. Also found myself sharing a beer with a couple of the local messengers - very nice, completely unaware of what was going on over in ireland last month but all relatively pleasant in the end. During exploration had to try to avoid looking at the hundreds of cambio-wechsel stations, half of which were offering much better ratts than the one I went to. Methinks a fair number of small bidnesspeople are not looking forward to full EU integration. Did a bit of night exploration as well, this city is so full of tourists - wonder what's so special about it?

Welcome To The Slaughterhouse (or Welcome Home, Sax of Saxony)

27 August - Alarm was set for an early wakeup call and I managed to extricate myself from Berlin without too much trouble - certainly not completely willingly but when travelling one does have to keep on moving. Had a slight journey to get myself to the rendesvous point for the carshare journey that was graciously organised for me by Erik - a tram then a train out to Schonweide where I was supposed to wait outside the McDonalds for a Rene. Upon getting off at the station I couldn't see a McDonalds and after asking a local shopkeep she directed me towards Burger King (i don't want to eat pre-digested American franchise food lady, I just want to meet someone there) and I unwisely jumped back on the train to the next stop which had a similar name. After exiting this station I saw a sign for McDonalds and after asking a workman for directions he sent me back from whence I came - time was running out for my rendesvous and I'd been told that the car shares wait for no man. Eventually found myself back at the original train station and around the corner was the McDonalds (and Rene) that had thus far eluded me. Turns out that Rene was not actually going to Dresden himself and was operating an illegal shuttle service but hey, it was 10 euros and that's the cheapest way to get to Dresden. Upon arrival got in touch with my local contact, Crisis Markus, who came to pick me up in his behemoth of a van and proceeded to give me a very excellent tour of the city - was goingg to moan to him about the state of my legs after the previous Saturday's fusbal participation but decided against it as I was aware that markus had just ridden the 90hr 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris,probaby not the time to complain - I have to admit my interest was a little macabre, after all, all I really know about the city is that it was the subject of Slaughterhouse 5 and was destroyed by the Allies in a fit of mostly petty vengeance - all things considering, it seems to have been rebuilt rather well. The signs of the destruction are quite visible though - the main church is half original stone and half new, one of the mountains that gives a great panorama of the city is completely man made - the result of piling up all the leftover rubble after the city was laid to waste. Still, there's a lot more to this place than the fire bombing - the fact that its the capital of Saxony and therefore the place I must return to and rule one of these days means I should probably get to know it better. I don't think there's anyone living in the castle right now so I might have to sneak in and change the locks before I move on. It's a nice castle, I think it'll do just fine.

This City

26 August - Trying to act as much the jam doughnut as possible - had a few errands in the morning (which for me of late, means the afternoon) - returned the Diamant to Steff with the help of Olly - he rode with me, bringing his housemate's beautiful old bike (with the revolutionary handlebar design) along for the ride - all the way from Prenzlauer to Pottsdamer, across the middle of the city, crossing the Wall, crossing the intersections and countless tram tracks, with him riding along with one hand, holding onto the spare bike with the other. I was amazed but hardly anyone seemed to bat an eyelid - even the cops who we sat across from at one set of lights. Took a while to get away from Stef, I love seeing friends but being sat through a couple of reels of holiday pictures is a bit much to ask from anyone, isn't it? After this wandered down to the local markets - its nice to see German hippies selling the junk from their attics as opposed to Australian hippies selling the junk from their attics. This also took a while to get away from - just wanted to crash out after the previous day's exertions - sore all over from strains and other deliberate injuries from football and early sleep has just been denied me this entire past week. But when in Berlin ... Was overjoyed to have takeaway and movies in evening, even if Joy Division wasn't exactly the upbeat music biopic that i'd supposed it might have been. Horrific stuff war ... Hot or cold.

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Sunday, 26 August 2007

It Looks Like We've All Kicked A Goal Today ...

25 August - ... Pity for some they were own goals. Had been warned that Saturday was Erik's day for playing indoor football with some local types and after musing that it probably wasn't the best thing to be doing in my current state I found myself at a local gym in the Sharts team. Actually, a lot of fun despite not really being prepared for it - an interesting mix of fellows and a relatively high paced and energetic game - got beaten up a bit - punched on the nose, elbowed in the eye (with the black eye to prove it) and last but not least I copped a futbal straight into the nose when it was kicked by the youngest player (stepson of another player) as he tried to take a goal. Have to say that the little s**t didn't really seem to remorseful and his behaviour was pretty obnoxious throughout the rest of the day but any attempts at vengeance would have just made me look bad so I had to bide my time and when he grows up and I return to Berlin i'll get the little f**ker. Unsuccessful haircut afterwards in preparation for a small night out on the town - Jodi had grand plans to dress everyone up but the only thing that was suitable for my enormous frame were a pair of skin tight trouser which meant that keeping anything in my pockets was impossible and riding and sitting were next to that, even breathing was a struggle so I had to take a few deep breaths and then just hold them for the rest of the night. One of Mr Stripparo's friends happened to be opening up a new pizza place in berlin - apparently he was the (a???) world champion pizza twirler (maker?). In typical Berlin honesty system style the restaurant was spilling into the street and all and sundry were provided with free booze, free entertainment and what was possibly the best pizza i've ever eaten. This was what arthur's used to aspire to - what a world to live in ...After said restaurant was done found myself in a troupe of late night revellers including a wannabe author who went out t oseek more entertainment for the evening - finally made it in to a Berlin nightclub which was quite cool but sometimes it's just too much too late.

Around And Around

24 August - Another sporadic thunderstorm came and went before I realised it had even started - seems to be a bit of that around here. Took some steps to rectify the dire pancake shortage i've been experiencing this past month (did get some in Cork but they were of an incredibly low calibre - I need mine with that extra special ingredient that isn't baking powder) and also took in a museum in the afternoon which is something else that has probably been lacking on this trip (but museums and galleries will always be there, at least on a philosophical level), Early evening I headed over to Olly's for some foods followed by a ride out to the local velodrome for the German track finals in a couple of disciplines - I hate to admit that it's not the most exciting way to spend a couple of hours - incredible stadium and beautiful bikes and amazingly overdeveloped legs but really it's just people racing around in a circle with some variations of strategy. Enjoyment may have been hampered by the fact that I didn't understand how half of the races were run - occasionally the only way i'd know who won a race wss By guaging who was more excired aftrrwards... it was slightly edumacational though. A small pitstop with some unexpected remedies of a slightly different type was followed by a bit of an epic journey around the city looking for the nightlife which has been a little elusive on this journey - took in a few riverside beach bars (another concept which is unknown in Sydney) and chatted with a lady priest in training (who doesn't like to be weighed down with heirarchy and denominations but prefers to see her calling at a more spiritual level ... Or so she tried to explain to us - I don't think I quite understood).

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Next We Take ... Um, Berlin ...

23 August - This sleeping in thing has its disadvantages when you're woken up by someone breaking a keyboard on the upper loft - being resident bike mechanic and Chez Striptobin means I get the responsibility of trying to repair the dodgy tyres in the house but one has to pay one's way. Lost my local map somewhere on the travels so had to roll in to town to try to find the appropriate tour guide to find the same one - I could have tried to appropriate a new map but i've found myself having grown attached to the Sandemans one and nothing else would do. Had my first proper German meal in the afternoon - might have been a difficult task for the mortals but was left feeling somewhat unsatisfied by the volume. I thought Germans didn't know how to undereat. Did a bit of wandering, a bit of window shopping, a bit of actual shopping, some more eating, a little reading, a late kaffirnation ... Cultural benefits can wait - there's plenty of time and plenty of worthy distractions when all is said and done. After reconvening with my hosts we headed to a very interesting conceptual restaurant - Weinerei. Basically, a localised version of a wine tour - enter the restaurant and pay a euro for a glass, then try wines all night long with the option of having a three course meal. At the end of the night you pay what you think the night was worth. Granted, the wines were not out of the cellar's of the snooty bourgeoisie and the main course and dessert were rather average but the venue was incredible - really dark and intimate, candle lit, smoke and dog friendly (???). Joined by Ollie and Stef and a later arrival of a girl who may or may not be romantically connected with Ollie. For all his enthusiasms and extremely welcoming and friendly nature I don't always have a complete grasp of his meaning (if you catch my drift ... Because I don't always catch his). A fine night and not of the type that you're likely to see in sydney any time soon.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Das Schillinger!

22 August - Thunderstorms and indifferent and contradictory advice meant I made a last second decision to try for the walking tour - not being able to use public transport because of a psychological aversion and not wanting to ride the bike because i'd either have to lug it all over town or lock it up in the middle of a strange city meant walking out to the Museum Island to see if I could find the alternative start point. Turned out that the regular tour guide was missing it (perhaps because of the stern talking to he'd been given by Boris the previous day) and there were only two others who wanted to do the tour - however, Rene, the alternative guide, seemed to have nothing better to do with his afternoon and so he carried on with us - excellent way to get a quick overview of the city, he was really well informed about all the facts (and factoids) of the city, obviously focusing on the Nazis and the East/West divide but also throwing in enough of the middle ages and the architecture (modern and old) to break up the misery of the subject. The walk was about four hours and I, as per my usual lack of foresight, had brought along way too much gear in the CHrome bag - rain jacket and umbrella proved to be completel unnecessary by the time we started moving and the weight became rather excruciating. Still, punishing myself is something that comes naturally to me it seems. After it ended had a beer with one of the other guided then tramped back to Prenzlauer where I was confronted with Jodi and Erik's new kitchen purchases. No matter what happens in their exiciting new shared life togeher, with all the highs and lows that come with married life, they've got the cutlery thing, the saucepan thing, the pasta maker thing and the knife thing covered. Who'd have thought kitchenware could cause such happiness. After I escaped this, I made my way over to Danziger to check out Olly's place - like a lot of the places I've seen in East Berlin it was very cool, a creative use of space seems to be the theme to a lot of the apartments over here but the rent sure seems cheap compared to the rest of Europe (and certainly cheaper than home) - all the more reason for the foreign nationals flooding the city. A few herbal remedies and beer and food stuffs helped fuel the evening - as was expected from his near obsession with bicycles - the collection in his house was very impressive - all of them super light and super clean - and the single speed he built for his flatmate, the one of the best designed handlebar and brake systems i've ever seen. I think some emulation is in order and someone's going to need to have some surgery done on her when I get home.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

In Germany The Tours Start On Time

21 August - Well, plans for doing one of the walking tours of Berlin fell through when I rocked up at Freidrichstrasse at 1pm to find that the tour wasn't there. Wasn't sure which direction they'd gone and after waiting for a bit realised that my best bet was to try again on the morrow. Did manage to squeeze in a bit of antique shopping (which may have contributed to me missing the tour) - but was defnitely there. After waiting an estimable amount of time tried to guess which way they'd be going in order to intercept them but they weren't at the Reichstag and I had no idea where they might be going so decided to skip it for a day - cruised around a little bit and was having a coffee at Keirin Café when along rolled Maka, a Melburnian i'd met in Dublin and had also heard about over the years who was just starting his first day working in Berlin - having nothing else to pressing for the next few hours I accepted his invitation to join him and I ended up doing some courier work in Berlin - over the four hours or so we were riding we only did two deliveries but they were deliveries the likes of which are not seen in Sydney or Vancouver - small documents but the distances were tremendous - completely off the map, in and out of the old boundaries and through heavily cobbled streets - if I'd been given jobs like that when I first started in Van I don't think i'd be where I am today (but philosophically speaking, destiny has delivered me a mixed lot in this business). Came home to more Italian cooking (those Italians) where we were joined by an American with a Russian name and also had another reunion in the evening from the incredibly friendly if somewhat incomprehensible Olly (not sure what his plans were in the evening but apparently I might be seeing him tomorrow night was the deduction that me and my sharp tongued host came to). Met some ex-pats in the park for a beer afterwards all of whom seemed most pleasant but they reminded me of, well, ex-pats. A breed unto themselves.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Brakeless in Berlin

20 August - Remarkably good sleep considering makeshift temporary residence in J&E's very cool Berlin flat - got a few things in order in the morning and relatively early I negotiated the public transport system to get myself to Potsdamer Platz (i think) where East meets West to rendesvous with Stef who in a fit of extreme generosity has lent me his track bike for my stay in the city. It's a very nice and simple construction - and was put together by him just for the track but she makes a fine street machine for the excellent riding city. No brakes and a rather big gear but I feel i've got a connection with her - and it's more than just being clipped in. We took a rather long and leisurely bicycle tour of the city - stopping at some of the larger bike shops for some price guaging and criss crossing the old wall on numberous occasions. Finished up at Keirin Café where I took my first step to a more streetwise existence and met some of the local couriers and tried a couple of local beverages. Was quite surprised at the size of Berlin, although I shouldn't be - great city to ride in but I wouldn't want to try and walk it. After this headed back to Ryssestrasser and went on another, even more leisurely, ride with Jodi and Erik to some of the seedier and some of the more eccentric parts of the local area - met a couple of beatnicks and then went back for some very nice food (i've a good feeling about the culinary aspects of this section of the trip but was sure it was going to improve after I vacated the Great Republic and Kingdom over the Channel). Watched The fountain in the evening - for some reason a film that was on my list due to its near mythic status as a modern sci-fi film with no CGI effects but the best part of watching it for me was that I can now cross it off the list. Entertaining at times, intriguing occasionally and mostly confusing - I think it may have had a strong message but I tuned out when the directors tried to explain it on the Extras DVD so I think i'll never know.

Monday, 20 August 2007

I Am A Jam Doughnut

19 August - A little hangover for a little bad behaviour is not really a punishment. Another reunion down in the West End before the worry of missing the flight caused me to take flight back to Hackney (realised my mistake in the previous west end-north east navigations and got there with reasonable time to spare). With a little hesitation I removed Chevette's pedal system (the umbilical cord that joins the man and the machine) as I was to leave her in the custody of another man (a man who has a great love of bicycles but still, it's another man) before loading up the gear into the Osprey and trudging out towards Liverpool. A fair way longer than expected when on foot but got there without too much trouble and after briefly considering the overcrowded bus jumped on the Express which took me right into Stansted - not the most most pleasant place in the world (full of all the cheap tourist of which I am a proud member but noticeably there are lots of the wrong kind of English - the Essexers and Midlanders and all the other strange demographics which don't appear on the Krypton factor) - somehow almost managed to be late for the flight after an awful Pret sandwich and was locked into the front row no legroom and two people who had laid claim to the armrests before I got there. But hey, I got to Berlin, where upon arrival I discovered that those efficient Germans had broken their trains for the day (i thought that only happened in NSW?) and the only officials around were the only officials in Germany who didn't speak English. Really wasn't worried though - for some reason I had this reassurance that z Germans are so efficient that i'd have to find my way to where I was goingeventually and I d - was greeted by jodi and kudio on the steps of wherever it is where i'm staying (somewhere near Alex Platz on the East side of berlin) and had another in a long line of joyful reunions. And that seems to be the recurring theme of this little trip so i'd just going toflow.

The Creed of Seamus

If it can't be ridden or drunk I don't want to know about it.
Can I drink it?
No ...
Can I ride it?
No ...
Well, why the f**k are you bovvering me wiv it???

The Roads Less Travelled

18 August - Not really a day for exploring it seems but made it out for a wee spot of English Breakfast (just like Irish, just like American, just like Australian ...) and even used the bus (oh, god, I hate using buses no matter what country i'm in). Intercepted one of the messengers, Wayne, currently in a state about his housemates and their wily machinations concerning the living arrangements (now, why does that sound familiar), and later traipsed through a small market and also through the backstreets of 'ackney. Productivity was at a bit of a lull but not really much to worry about considering my current state and the fact that I don't really need to be productive in my current locale.
Later on in evening made a walking journey out to Holloway beingentertained by the musings of Mark Kermode - I didn't think it was that substantial but upon my arrival at destination some expressed some bemusement at my mode of transport - joyful reunion in Holloway with friends of Australian origin - last time I was in London I caught up with Ruthnade with the same friends in the same suburb (different house though) - always nice to do antipodean reunions on the north side - had been told about this mythical party for months and was quite anticipating it - quite good in the end - barbecued sardines and cocktails and remedies - not much more you could ask for really. Very international crowd - not reallysure what the point of the party was but it was a party and parties, like little girls, need no excuses. When I decided it was time to make my polite exit at the tail end of the night I was given vague instructions on the best route to get back to 'ackney - was reliably informed that it wasn't really a dodgy area but a taxicab shouldn't pose too much of a threat - was a bit disappointed by the route that was given as i'm sure that I was sent on a bit of a sightseeingtour through north east London - after an age of wandering and probably not in the right direction I found that the streets were completely devoid of taxis (both mini and black) but found myself on a night bus (i hated the night bus a decade ago and I still don't think too much of it now) that took an increidbly circuitous route through some part of London that I was unfamiliar with - eventuallycame to hackney but not a part of hackney that I knew - more plodding and lack of taxis eventually got me to a street I knew but, hey, even an ex-enger wants a taxi sometimes.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

A chilling fight with psychosis

This is why I'm so blocked up without my cold medication ... f**kin' druggies ...

A chilling fight with psychosis

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A chilling fight with psychosis
July 10 2007

Hospital emergency rooms and ambulance crews had to develop new ways to battle the effects of ice, writes Malcolm Knox.

They used to park near Tim Logan's pharmacy in carloads of five. One by one they would come to the counter and ask for a packet of Sudafed, or Sinutab, or some other over-the-counter medication containing pseudoephedrine. Then they'd ask for a second packet, or a third.

"It was always the same story," says Logan. "They're going on a boat trip, or they're going overseas, and they need to take a few boxes for their sinus problem. Then a few minutes later another one would come in with the same story."

Logan's pharmacy, in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast, was on what he calls a "J-curve" followed by "pseud runners" from Cairns down the east coast through Brisbane and Sydney to Melbourne, then up to Canberra.

"They'd pick up a box here, a box there, until they had huge amounts," he says. "Sometimes they'd even recruit old ladies coming out of the RSL. They'd give them $20 for coming across the road to buy a pack of cold and flu tablets."

Pseudoephedrine is a crucial precursor chemical for the manufacture of methamphetamine. Pseud runners were paid by manufacturers to drive immense distances gathering enough pseudoephedrine for a commercial "cook" of meth or ice.

But they hit a roadblock in October 2005 when Queensland pharmacists launched Project STOP, a database letting chemists share instantaneous records of who is buying pseudoephedrine. Queensland, traditionally the national capital for clandestine meth labs, has since seen a 23per cent drop in lab detections, while numbers have risen in the rest of Australia.

As a result of the Queensland experience, Project STOP is rolling out into NSW and across the country this month.

Denis Leahy, who owns a pharmacy in Stanmore in Sydney's inner west, says the demand for pseudoephedrine has surprised pharmacists. "We've had dexamphetamine around for donkey's years, but the quick onset of the ice drug was dynamite."

Pharmacists are among several professions whose work practices have been changed by methamphetamine in the past five years. Some hospital emergency departments have instituted new protections against patients suffering violent meth psychoses. Ambulance and first-aid workers have new protocols for treating psychotic cases. Counsellors, police, mental health workers and legal officers have had to adapt their work practices to the unique challenge posed by psychotic individuals.

Buck Reed, the chief executive of the first-aid organisation UniMed, says the psychotic meth user has forced first-aiders to develop new procedures.

"If they're already breaking things, we get police back-up," Reed says. "If it's a clear-cut case, we get a whole lot of police to come in, and sedate them." Subduing the individual can take as many as eight paramedics and police. "Capsicum spray doesn't work on methamphetamine users. They become half-blinded and angry, as opposed to just angry. A person going through a meth psychosis doesn't care much for your safety, either."

More than the clear-cut cases, Reed says, it's "the in-between ones who are the challenge … the guy with a racing pulse, skyrocketing blood pressure, who will sit peacefully - but if the police come or even if he thinks the police are coming, he'll kill everyone".

There have been "many instances" of paramedics getting injured, he says. Meth frightens paramedics, it frightens police, it frightens the community. Cannabis, on the other hand, has never frightened anyone.

"We've needed to develop de-escalation techniques. We talk to them in a way that shows we are not going to harm them. They're not bad people, but they think the paramedics are giant werewolves who are about to eat them. They're terrified, and if they're frightened enough they'll behave in exotic ways. You have to find a balance between calming them down and not hurting yourself."

A Victorian ambulance officer, Alan Eade, has helped to write a new procedural manual for ambulance paramedics to address the meth problem. "We're seeing more extreme psychotic behaviour," he says. "Acutely aggressive psychotic reactions to speed or crystal - they're the ones we find it hard to manage." The issue of meth psychosis, he says, is rare - about one out of every 8500 weekly ambulance calls in Melbourne - but powerful enough to demand its own responses.

"Last year I was assaulted by a guy who was punching the front of a bus … We were called in - a bald man with no shirt was spotted screaming at traffic. A passer-by yelled abuse at him and he turned on me, because I was the nearest person. It wasn't directed personally at me. It felt different from a drunk. Drunks can get very personal. This guy just lashed out. The look in their eye is quite empty. I ended up with bruises and scrapes and broke my glasses.

"It's the cases like these that require so many resources. Security staff and police are called in to sedate them [and] because they're so powerful there's always an element of risk. On the other hand, the majority are lovely people and end up in hospital without incident."

Beaver Hudson, a clinical nurse consultant, emergency and psychiatry, at St Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst, says that when he started at the hospital nine years ago "staff were desensitised to violence - the name-calling and the destruction were all part of being in emergency at StVincent's. I was absolutely appalled at what the staff had to put up with and what they accepted.

"We couldn't punch back, but we could reject them from admission or make them wait, or deny them pain relief … that turned out to be the way," Hudson says."We set up zero tolerance. Rather than medicalise that behaviour, we'd ask for the police to come. If people were being violent, that was a police problem. It got around in the community that if you went to St Vincent's and acted that way, you were handed to the police.

"The staff now have duress alarms which alert security staff. The security office is next door to PECCS [the special rooms in which violent patients are examined]. People want help, but don't want to be strong-armed out. But that's how we've dealt with them."

From the police angle, the focus has been on supply reduction. When the ice problem hit the headlines in 2005, the Federal Government rescheduled medicines containing pseudoephedrine to make them harder to get. The pharmacist had to be involved in the sale and large boxes became prescription only. But the harassment continued.

Pharmacists tended to react in two extreme ways, says Logan, now president of the Queensland branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. "Some reacted by going overboard and not stocking it, while others said they were not policemen and would not make value judgments about people, so they just went ahead and sold it. Pseudoephedrine is a useful drug for treating an annoying and very common symptom, so we don't want to have to ban it.

"The expert pseud runners knew that a pharmacist might phone five local pharmacies to see if they'd turned up, so they moved over a much greater geographic area," says Shaun Singleton, the manager of innovation and development at the Queensland branch of the Pharmacy Guild.

"Now, Queensland pharmacists must ask for ID if someone buys pseudoephedrine. In other states it's a question of consent. If the person doesn't consent [to present ID], the pharmacist will say we can offer you alternative medication."

Pseud runners could notionally get around the obstacle by providing false identification, but then they would need many, many false identities to escape detection on the network.

Privacy concerns are well-managed under the program, says Leahy. "The information people give us has no other use and won't be given to anyone else."

The benefit for pharmacists is twofold - they can sell what Singleton calls "the ultimate weapon against common sinus pain" without having to guess whether the purchaser is going to misuse it, and they can avoid the kind of harassment Logan suffered a few years ago when a pseud runner chased him into his dispensary to try to find Sinutab.

"It's been tremendous in my pharmacy," Logan says. "Project STOP [has] made work much safer. In my experience, if pseud runners realise they can't buy it, they just give up."

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We're In London Still

16 August - A fair night's sleep for a fair knight's benefit. First time wandering the streets of London for quite some time - some of it came back to me but I still found myself rather hopelessly lost at times. Occasional questioningof couriers helped at times but also resulted in more misadventures around the city. Eventually, after a few calls and mishaps found myself in the deep end of Soho at the John Snow, the daytime boozer for some of the city's rascals and ne'erdowells - couple of reunions (not that joyful but satisfactory) made the afternoon relatively pleasant and as I got lost on the way back to the house found myself getting directions from another cyclist who turned out to be from the Glorious Nation of Slovakia - he was making benefit of cultural learnings of the western side of Europe and as we were heading in more or less the same direction I went back for a cocktail and to lend a sympathetic ear to his relevant complaints about the west. Heck of a nice guy though. After escaping the reluctanct Londoner's residence a few errands before goingback to the west end (directions courtesy of Brazilian courier) for another reunion with Ms White from Australia - it hadn't really been that longsince i'd seen her but it's always nice to see a friend on the other side of the world, especiallywhen dinner is paid by the expense account (and dinner's always twice as tasty when served by Jedi Padawans). More drink (???) locally in Bloomsbury then back at the Snow (which is also a night time boozer as well) where I caught up with more couriers including a lucky meeting with a Vancouver based Londoner who just happened to be in town for the night (and he worked for the same company as the jacket I was wearing - coincidence? Not really). Despite not really making any mistakes, I think, on the way back the journey seemed to take f**kingforever. Made it though.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Goodbye Ireland

16 August - And so it goes, I depart the Emerald Isle for the heart of the British Empire - i'd booked a courier to help carry one of the bags out to the port but managed to stuff everything into the rucksack sans stuff that I could wear for the trip. Only got a little bit lost on the way out to Dublin Port but found myself there with plenty of time to spare. Found a couple of London couriers (Scott and ...?) at the port waiting to follow the cars into the bowels of the ferry as the last of the internationals make their way out of Ireland. As I sit on the ferry awatch Ireland get smaller and smaller I can't help but think that i've left something behind. I hope it's not too important.
Always good to have company on a long journey, especially those with the foresight to bring food and alcomohol and the generosity to share it with those who didn't. Eventually found ourselves at Hollyhead and had to scrabble for the train where we passed through a bunch of towns including the famous Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch (for some reason they didn't announce that one ... Can't think why) - nice train journey (very suspicious little girl must have gone to the toilet about 15 times on thejourney - probably got a Coke problem) and had to fight a quadriplegic for our seats but eventually made it to Crewe where there was another rush to join the next train which took us into Euston. Terribly enjoyable ride to Hackney,got lost, found a couple of commuters who were going in the right direction and followed them home. Now what ...?

FW: Check it out jerks!


Thursday, 16 August 2007

Why Does It Always Rain On My Parade?

14 and 15 August - Was sure i'd set my alarm for an early wakeup call but obviously it didn't work. Thought those hostel bastards had done it again - couldn't find my contacts upon waking but realised I had very short time to get some of the free 'continental' breakfast so legged it downstairs - everything seemed to be in order there was ample bread, rorsbry and strawsbry but ... No butter. They get you every time. It turns out that there was some type of congealed oil spread which was better than nothing and for the first time I actually got a decent sized serving. But, I feel i'm in some kind of Orwellian nightmare - four slices of toast doesn't fill my belly and eight slices makes me feel bloated and reactive to the gluten. What am I going to do? Had planned to bike out to the Aran Islands ferry in the morning but sleep in, semi-torrential forecast and actual local downpour meant that it was probably not to be. As rain never stopped I thought twould be prudent to leave Chevette at the hostel (where, while she still wouldn't be dry at least the act of walking meant that my jeans could potentially survive the day) - Galway is not a sight seeing town per se but still seems to be inundated with tourists - not sure exactly why they're all here, perhaps its the night life? As I trudged through the districts the one thing that really seems to stand out is the plethora of buskers - every corner and sidestreet seems to have one and they were going until well past one in the morning last night - even two of the people sharing the dorm with me seemed to be financing or at least subsidising their travellingwith that particlar venture. Also noticed far too many people with the lowest of travelling jobs - the signboard holder. One of the most demeaning positions there is - having a signboard draped over your shoulders that may as well say 'Eat At Joes' for all anyone would really care. I, for one, would actively seek to avoid any place of business that would seek to humiliate any employee by making them wear a sign. But maybe that's just me.
Found myself at a standup comedy night in the evening - all things considering it was pretty good (nobody sneaking peaks at palm cards which is a good sign that they're trying to push themselves out of the amateur leagues) - a lot of local humour (for example, I was not aware that Cork men and Kerry men are worse enemies than Palestinians or Israelis) which I realised probably would have been funny if i'd substituted Palestinians and Israelis for the Cork and Kerry men - my main complaint would have been for the crowd - any comedian (or any performer for that matter) has got to know how to deal with a tough crowd but the crowd also has a responsibility to be somewhat respectful - if you're going to heckle and interrupt at least have something to say. There's nothing worse than a wag in the audience who is less funny than he thinks the comedian is (did I say that right?).
Well, the next day involved another bus sojourn across the country back into the capital - upon arrival I managed to find the port (i hope it was the right one) and started the process of getting myself out of there - caught up with more couriers afterwards (you're still here? Apparently me and stef are the last of the travellers) before baselining for a while and making a final rendesvous with an old friend. Got a bit of culture at an exhibition at the Gallery of Photography courtesy of Jeannie's connections which was followed by a drink or two and some Jazz that was so free that it was inaudible (i think they got a better offer so weren't playing at our poob). I'm going to miss this place.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


21 and 22 July – Finally got the chance to sleep in after the past days of pre-dawn rising but was denied the chance of real rest due to the flurry of activity around me ... A few administrative and maintenance tasks had to be completed – a bicycle box was kindly donated from Cranks and also a very good bargain on a new tyre (Made in France – presume its a snooty tyre rather than an exploited one). The afternoon also marked the long awaited making of the Raisin Toast Alternative with Wild Blueberries substituted for the hideous dried grape ingredient. As it had been over a generation since I had baked my own bread I was compelled to follow the recipe to the letter and the cold weather meant the yeast had difficulty farting out its airy goodness so it was probably not the greatest incarnation of this revolutionary baked good but it was a start. Left the dough to rise whilst me and some select troops went to Coogee for fish pie and a viewing of PJ's latest filmistic creation (which had incredible sound and fair direction and acting) - returned past midnight to complete the baking which meant a very late night but also a capital 2am snack. Some riding through the backstreets of the upper North Shore with L in the morning who is getting much better at negotiating the joys of velocipeding ... My small collection of books, which has been gathering dust for a few years in the wilds of Coogee finally took the journey back to their original home (for some of them) in Gordon and I had a small panic attack caused by missing travel documentation which eventually revealed themselves to me. Collected a few possessions and a small cat (currently at winter weight) to take back with me to McMahons (I think Lily's improved my standing somewhat with a few members of the household). While Lilith was hiding out in order to adjust to her temporary environment we headed out to the see the latest in the Harry Potter cinema offerings, not much more than was expected, lots of flashy special effects, nothing mind blowing and an expected Deus Ex Machine ending (can't really get excited about plot twists when you've already read the books) followed by raw fish at a Sushi Train. Tried to edumacate someone in the etiquette of revealing the endings to books to people who haven't read them yet but don't think it really sank in.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

To The Sea

13 August - Those bastards have thwarted me again. Despite getting up relatively earlyish for the 'light breakfast' there was nothing but margarine and marmalade to spread on it - who eats marmalade? I want berry jam goddamnit! Somehow managed to stuff down four slices but it wasn't pleasant. had a bit of a revelation whilst in bed - Killarney's pretty dull. THis was confirmed when I read through the 'things to do in Killarney' book at the hostel and found that i'd done all of them the previous afternoon. After that I realised there was little for me to do but get the flock out of there. Rushed down to the bus station and purchased a ticket to Galway and was on it in less than 15m. It's grand to be on one's own sometimes. Although didn't have complete success in trying to blag Chevette on with me - every time i've caught the bus nobody's checked that her ticket but this time there were two other crappe MTBs on with me and the station guy said there was a maximum of two bikes and i'd have to get the next bus in two hours. After extolling the virtues of Chevette's light and beautiful frame that wouldn't take up much room he reluctantly agreed but chased up on me to buy her a ticket. You've got to try, don't you? Upon arrival at Gallway took my expensive companion on a little trip down to the seaside (who'd have thought they'd have beaches on Ireland - well, they're not real beaches but i'm ot going to tell the Galwegians that). Very pretty - this country is so green. Turns out that Galway is suffering from a plague of cryptosporidum (god, I love that word) similar to what hit Sydney about a decade ago - should be suitable frustrating to clean teeth and wash contact lenses but i'll survive. International crowd gathering on balcony in evening - Spanish, french, Canadian (well, quebecois but they're still a part of it), German and northern Irish) - had my first herbal remedy in a while which was rather pleasant. Have to say that one particular hostel demographic that always raises my suspicions is the older character (generally male) who hangs out at the hostel but doesn't live there. The gypsy Irish gentleman from Belfast was very nice but there was just somethingabout him that made me wary - perhaps it was his not very well explained reason for living in Dublin then in Galway, his obvious presence at the hostel and his later descriptions of seeing his girlfriend shot in front of him by the British during the troubles. He just seemed like a slightly dodgy character that could be potentially dangerous. But hey, he was a nice guy. Every once in a while you get the feeling that your world has come close overlapping with a very different world where values and things of importance are radicallydifferent. After making a tentative journey out to see the early week Galway late night life - I soon found myself losinginterest once the last of the pubs shut down and the blaring nighclubs filled with those strange types who actuallywant to go clubbing on a Monday - i'm obvlivious to what day it is right now but they should know better.

When I Ireland, Don't Drink The Coffee

From Scents Is Common Sense?

Would this explain why I want to run away every time I get close to a Darrell Lea or Pretzel World? The marketing exec who came up with this should be shot.

Monday, 13 August 2007

I'm Taller Than You

12 august - and that means I should take the f**king seat with the leg room, b**ch. Tried and failed again to get my money's worth from the included breakfast at the hostel - breakfast being just tea/coffee and toast - yesterday I was thwarted when they closed up after I only got four pieces and today I got in early - took my four slices (after trying to explain to the idjits that you don't have to put the bread thrugh the conveyor toaster twice but you can just set it slower) and went back for a second round only to have the queue going out the entire kitchen. Four pieces is not enough for me - apparntly the next place in Killarney (not the Heights) has a similar deal so i'll see how I go. Still baffled by the looks and comments of amazement that the Guide and his keyboard gets whenever anyone sees me tappingaway on him in public - I guess it's still more portable than the most portable laptop (although I think the light projected keyboard would be a prudent investment if I want to be more impressive to the yokels.
Abit of uncertainty with what to do once I was in Killarney but the National Park beckoned - a fairly decent ride out there plus a few cycling tracks once in plus a couple of nice walking tracks - very tranquil, very beautiful, very green. Wandering along past some cows that were fenced in and was strumming the wire when I suddenly had a massive jolt through my body - once I got to the end of the fence it was then that I noticed that there was a tiny little yellow sign informing all that the fence was electrified. Looked around for someone to sue but there was nobody but Spanish tourists and they weren't going to help me. Turns out i'm sharing a room with some sure to be loud and irritating irishmen - supposed to be heading to the Puck for some loose women, I hope they find them and leave me in peace tonight. I can't believe what I ate tonight; I can't believe what I read tonight.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Not Part Of The Package

11 August - Found myself on a little bit of night exploration with ze Germans for a while - had a pint or two (that's pronounced pInt) but decided that i'd rather crash out earlyish than latter - maybe i'm getting old but the appeal of crawling around a foreign city guzzling as much booze as I can doesn't really appeal so much these days. Still miserably wet and with no signs of clearing it looks like i'll be in for a sodden week. Lots of beggars in Cork - many of the Eastern European persuasian - terrible how all those Lithuanians and Poles and Czechs and, god fordbid, Slovakians, have invaded the west of Europe. Who the hell do they think they are taking advantage of their EU passports to flitter through the porous borders. Never usually bothered by being asked for money but when a long haired guy with a more expensive iPod than mine is asking for a couple of euros and cigarettes it's kind of irritating, especially when the refusal is followed by a thinly veiled threat to be 'careful with [my] things'. You dare threatenme!!! Such is the life of a tourist. Despite the danger of being rained on I thought it would be wise to get out of town and took a ride down to Kinsale - not too strenuous although the chafing started to make itself felt - impromptu toilet break was interrupted by a home call and the discovery of delicious blackberries growing by road (don't know if you're supposed to eat 'em but I did and they were good). Upon arrival in said harbour town had some stew, had some beer, took some photos and rolled back. It's a slightly relaxing kind of trip at the moment - perhaps a little dull? I shouldn't really be having those kind of thoughts - one thing i'm glad of is that i'm not part of a budget package tour - had a brief chat with a group of smokers at the hostel and whilst they're being given a good tourist view of the country they're being shuttled around the country at an alarming speed and they're all stuck with each other and I can tell you that i'm glad i'm not stuck with them. I'm not being negative, truly not.
Finished 'The Last Don' by Mario Puzo - a pulpier mafioso book I do not know - one day, when i'm a best selling author i'm going to make sure that I don't find myself typecast into one subject - how many different books about the mafia can you write? Ditto with Clancy and taut politicalthrillers and Francis and horses, King and horror. But hey, they're doing what they love. And f**k, Predator is an awesome movie.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Sure And Begorrah! Tis The Blarney ...

9 and 10 August - Some best laid plans were averted by a pressing need to do some oprganimisation in Dublin - missed out on a planned ride to Glenalough but the city's still got more than a few compatriots to help while away the time - had to do a bit of ferrying and other such things in preparation for the planned exit of Dublin - i've always been so good at keeping possessions down to a minimum but this time i'm way overloaded. Couriers still drinking themselves and me under the table and hopes of an early night were thwarted once again by that legendary oirish hospitality - did manage to get myself to the right bus station with the right possessions in time to get myself out of the capital in order to start seeingsome more of the green island. Not the worst bus trip i've ever had but not the best - may have even nodded off for a nap (or somethingresembling a nap) but eventually made it to Cork where I found the dorm (oh god, i'm too old for this) occupied by young Germans on an 8 day drinking binge - do you only have one beer in Australia? Fosters? Ja? - Yes, there is only one beer in Australia ... - That is really strange we have thousands in Germany - SAVE ME). Went on a rather pointless tour of the city - nothing terribly exciting at first and the fact that it was pissing down with rain didn't do much to help my mood (that i'm still stuck in bike shoes and only have one pair of pants didn't help either). In any event, not wanting to waste the limited time on the Emerald Isle thought it would be prudent to make it out to one of the tourist attractions or two - i'd seen signs to blarney throughout the town - didn't know how far it was but was aware that the Eirbus was running a day tour out there thought it would be prudent to make the journey by velocipede (got to get something out of the carbon soled footwear) - found myself on a motorway still raining unpleasantly and, like Bray, soon found the signs to Blarney disappearing and could onlyhope I was on the right track. Luckily, the town appeard after about 10k (or less) and it was small enough that the castle was more or less hard to miss - beautiful old castle in lovely grounds, the rain also kept away the majority of the tourists (praise be, can't stand tourists) and I soon foun myself at the summit kissing the fabled stone (yes, i've heard the rumours about what the locals do the stone at night but i'm sure they're just rumours). Still felt rather cold and la miserable but luckily this is ireland and there's mo shortage of establishments where one can bring their body back to a civilised state.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

So It Goes

7 and 8 August - Seem to be in some strange kind of courier timezone at the moment - late sunset and later messenger events mean the days are gettingsucked up and it's not great even for someone who survives on a relatively small amount of sleep at the best of times. Today was the last official day of the CMWC - started off at the outdoor velodrome where we had finals for texas twins (taken out by the Melburn Massive - first title by an Australian team), some pursuit events on the track and a haphazard game of bike polo and also had the ubiquitious group photo for all those who were still in the city. Turns out unlucky Saffy Brian, who's been a bit of a nonentity for the past few days had broken his hand during the skids on Sunday - that boy just needs a break (and not the kind that he seems to get consistently). I'd feel sorry for him if he wasn't such an obnoxious little s**t all the time. Rode on a track for the first time, which was quite fun - not the smoothest of surfaces but a new experience which every fixie rider should probably try at some point in his life. Alittle bit of carbohydrating to recover before the final push to finish this CMWC once and for all - a slightlymore relaxed party at the Temple which was nowhere near Temple Bar (thankfully) where there was reminescing and more drinking - the Garda were out in full force - potential football hooligans (some of whom couldn't have been more than 13 year old) just leaving a game where being herded like sheep through the streets by mounted police, vans and the complete riot squad - a little bit disconcerting (couriers aren't the most physically aggressive of demographics when all is said and done, despite the tattoos) - made a completely awesome jersey swap with strom from Basel - a kurier Zentrale jacket for my (admittedly very nice) Dynamex long sleeve jersey - an ancient tradition which must be performed duringan event such as this.
Now that it's all over i've got to start seriously considering how i'm goingto manage the rest of this trip and spent a little while at the tourist office making some enquiries and a did a little bit of the tourist thing - thought about doingthe Jamieson's distillery tour but thought that an Irish coffee at the café would be more than suitable in the end. Bartender turned out to be a messenger from way back, even attended inaugural CMWC and organised one of the european ones- once a messenger always a messenger even if u r an x-enger.ALso thought i'd get a bit of culture beyond the bicycle and saw an exhibtion or two at the Museum of Modern Art (a very nice institution next to the local jail - which is where they throw people who take backpacks that are too large into the exhibitions) followed by an interestingMicrosoft venture - the soon to be renamed Gates Codex by Leonardo daVinci - basically a rambling collection of ideas and thoughts by one of the world's greatest geniuses ... kind of like a 15th (???) century version of Evil melon with more science and less whining. Drank some coffee, caught up with some couriers, went for a ride out to the coast with a couple of locals,drank some beer, rolled home. Got to pack now - accumulating way too much crap right now.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

To The Victor Go The Spoils

6 August - Despite being locked in on the previous night managed to be up before the afternoon for the latest of the festival activities - found a New Yorker at the university who was heading into town with the same destination (he turned out to to be a bike advocate, who had replaced nathan, my longterm houseguest from Sydney last year - bike advocatts ... You've got to tolerat tthem). Upon arrival in town looked for the couriers - for the first time since i've arrived the city seemed to be devoid of them - tried Stephens Green and Smithfield but nary one was to be found for hours. There was to be a group ride through the city where the various other events would be randomly held. Eventuallygave up and drank coffee in the green for a little while before all of a sudden a small posse whooshed by - jumped on their tale and found ourkselves beingled to the beach where sudenly there were hundreds of them - missed the naked trackstand but I don't reallythink I missed it after all. Rest of the events of the day were all a bit silly - backwards circles, bike tricks, bunny hops, texas twins and more drinking by many of them. Rain came down sporadically (this is Dublin) and eventually took a brief respite for some food and local catchup - back to Temple Bar for the rest of the night's events (i'm reallystarting to get a little tired of the Eamon Doran but it seemes to be the onlybar that will tolerate so many cyclists at the same time) where I attended the open forum (bicycle messengers actingas bureucrats ar very amusing) - a few changes to the IBMA council - a couple of vocal Americans who vowed to shake things up on the running of events and promising to do more for the conditions of messengers throughout the world and a couple of Europeans who just wanted to be a part of the whole thin - a new president was elected, Scottish sAndy from the Netherlands - all things considering it seemed a bit of a farce - every thing that was put to a vote got unanimous support except for a couple of non voters - I think most of the guys stuck in the forum just wanted to get back out to the pub to keep on drinking.Shortlyafterwards there as the awards ceremony - was a little surprised that the controversy with the main race resulted in the top three riders all beingdisqualified and the winner was not brooklyn austin but another American, Pete, a road rider who actuallydid the full london Dblin ride with us - he was far too drunk to make a coherent speech but he seemed pretty happy about it.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Not To Be

4 and 5 AUGust - As of initial draft of this post I still don't know if i'm qualified - talking to others I don't thnk i'm too far off the qualification time - everyone seemed to have made a screwup or two - all in all, i'm pretty happy with the route I took but my speed might not have been up to scratch. The offroad course certainly doesn't favour fixies ... Quick journey back to basecamp to deal with various issues meant a bit of a timeout from the festival atmosphere - which is pretty much what the whole event is - i'd liken it more to a decentralised kind of Glastonbury with less people trying to make the sell, less bands (but a few nonetheless), no one location (other than the entire city of dublin beingthe site) but with the same hardcore dedicattd mix of old school, hipsters and groupies. Delayed golden sprints meant I was kept up way too late - my capacity for drink does not seem to have been improved by latest amounts of imbibing - I think i'll always be a lightweight compared to the compatriots - be they kuriers or be they anyonese else I happen to drink with back home. Well, perhaps its got to do with the fact that whn I pass out drunk I wake up with two pieces of plastic wedged to my corneas - which is happened when I came to half an hour after the main race was due to start. Abeautiful Dublin day with grey skies and heavy drizzle may have been the reason why it was delayed three or four hours but it may just have been the incredible organising skills of the Dublin massive - in any event, it was a good thing because a fair number of people hasn't turned up anywhere near the expected start (pretty much the same as any of the events held this weekend) - the sodden, muddy and slippery course scard a few people who qualified out of competing (it was around this time that I discovered that I didn't actuallyqualify - which was another disappointment but from what I can gatehr my time was actuallyokay, it was just the fact that it was in a heeat that had very fast people in it - at least that's what i'm goingto keep telling myself). Fortified myself with iorish coffee and swiss chat before heading to park to see the top fifty riders throw mthemselves around the coure a couple of dozen times with various levels of efficiency - disappointing result for Shinos (???) the fastest man in japan who suffered a puncture as well as a high pitched little courier (who couldn't have been more than 14) who suffered a broken chain (that was luckily fixed by some helpful bystanders, a few spills (none serious) and a lot of mud that coattd all the riders and their bicycles - event was taken out by austin (from new york, not Texas), a silentish type who'd dropped out of the london Dublin ride in order so that he didn't break anything before riding (soft). Very fast rider though. Broke out of the events for a while to try to get some clean socks (a man has to have priorities) and then having aa rather joyful reunion with an old travelling companion from the deep blue south of America - always nce to see people who you know from one side of the world on the other - drank and ate a bit before heading to the next kurier event, more golden sprints in the voodoo which I failed at misrably (not my week) when my contact lens popped out just before I started - what do you tell a roomful of drunk kuriers when you're supposed to ride on an elaborate exercise bike for their entertainment and you've just been blinded? Not much. Got locked into a dank local bar where they served decent sized shots of whiskey at very reasonable prizes (and the tender even seemed to know that 'rocks' meant ice which was an improvement from some of the places I drank at that night.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Not The Latest Contender

3 and 4 August - First decent night's sleep? Made my way back to retrieve the rest of my possessions from the storage - and faffed around for a while, was going to do a bit of exploring because I have absolutely no idea what the schedule for the week is supposed to be but intercepted a small group of couriers led by one of the welcome party who were off to the registration. There were quite a few people milling about but we were early but as the day wore on hundreds of messengers from all over the world (Japanese, Danish, South African, English, Australian, Irish, Spanish, German (lots of germans - they're a funny lot), Norwegian, Czech, Polish, French, Chilean, Canadian, Russian, Slovak, Crazy lookingScots, Kiwi, Belgian, Korean, Indian (???), Irish and a huge contigent of AMericans). Lots of people from last year including many who had passed through Sydney - everyone's real friendly and so many of them can drink SO much. As with any event of this scale, the quasi-celebriity champions and contenders strut around glaring at everyone, the groupies (yes, there ar groupies) hang on to their every word and the topic of conservation is always bikes. Of which there were hundreds - every type represented but at least 90% fixed. Got bit lost at several times duringthe day when I tried to negotiatt my way from one party to my accommodation to the next party to wherever we wersupposed to be goin gnext. SO many messengers in town you can just ride down the street until you find one who seemes to know what the next scheduelkd event is. Tried to get an early night for the qualifier on saturday (is 230am an early night???) - got a flat two minutes after I left the pub to go home (that's hermes way of telling me that I left the pub too early) - not terribly necessary - my 1130 start didn't happen until 130pm - couriers spend their entire lives pushing deadlines to the minute but when they hold an event like this everything is always late. Despite worrying about what the big London dublin ride did to my condition and ability to even ride a bike the adrenalin seemed to overwhelm any pain and it seemed like verythingwent okay - the courese was relatively simple and not terribly long although half of it was offroad grass and rocks which is not the most appropriat tsurface to be riding fixed) - at this stage I have no idea who I went - i've just ducked out for some lunch - maybe i'll be in in tomorrow .... Only Hermes knows?

Friday, 3 August 2007


30 July - Somehow managed to wake up ... Well, not really that difficult as I was still on Sydney time even aftert my ordeal and found myself up three hours before I wanted to. Was the firt to get to the meeting point and was paranoid that it may have been canged in the past week but was soon joined by Markus, from Germania (a recent ex-Sydney courier) and he was shorty followed by the rest of the 40 stronginternational crowd. Eventually made our way out of town a few hours later than originllyexpected and took a massive group ride through the heart of rush hour London. How to describe the rest of the day - an offroad canal ride out of London followed by hours of relentless riding - frequent stops which could have been a good ro a bad thing - realsied I'd taken far too much weight with me and probably a too difficult gear - through Eton and Reading and on to Avebury. Got lost or aleast thought we did on several occasions - the group was constantly splitting up and joining up again - a few crashes, a few incidents with police when we were headingto the campsite as it approached midnight without lights, also learned the ebnefits of team tactics - can make a real difference when pushing into the wind - backbreaking day and followed by an awful sleep on the stone cold floor of a barn (hey, it was good enough for jesus). Felt a lot of pain for Kevin, a Bostonioan who had no sleeping bag and was sleepingon a chair in the barn with us. Still, felt relatively chipper the next day all things considing.

End Of The Road

2 August - Latest substandard sleeping arrangements turned out to be relatively acceptable - crashed on wooden bench at ferry terminal for a few hours and once we boarded the couriers took over the padded floor of the children's play pen - best three hours sleep i've had in a week. Next thing I knew we were woken by the announcement that we'd hit the coast of Ireland and after some vague inhalation of caffeine and nicotine and other remedies (by a few) we headed off to the campsite where we were supposed to be the previous night. Got caught up in a line of some of the faster riders and we set a blistering pace over the 15 miles to Wexford - and because we were now in a civilised country it was actually 24 kilometres and even though there are more of them they click down much faster. Me and Luis headed out slightly earlier than the others because we wanted to break the fast (which turned out to be an irish breakfast which is pretty much the same as an english breakfast or even an american breakfast (if you're in thailand) or an australian breakfast with the vegemite subbed by black and white pudding) and we took the very nice coastal road up north. Somehow managed to lose him again and after a bit more coastal plodding decided it was time to hit the motorway (also considering that my map didn't cover Ireland it was really the only route I had any possibility of making). Had my first irish guiness at a pub in Inch (and I stand by my statement that's in no better than one poured in England or even Australia (unless its out of a can and vibratetd with sonic shock waves) and then took off in a group that had an unexpected traffic race through the next town. Knees were really starting to suffer (as well as back, shoulders, hands and crotch) and had to stop every 15k or so to stretch and cry a little. Eventually found myself riiding into Bray where I was yelping from the pain of every hop skid all the way down and found our welcome party (of one - Owen, one of the dublin organisers). This was pretty much the spiritual end of the journey as most of the couriers who arrived before I did (and there weren't too many, mmind you) had already started the proces of getting very, very drunk. Went on the WHeel of death at the seaside fair, zoned out for a while and waited for the last of the straglers to come in. Eventually announcem was made that we were rolling to Dublin and despite the several hours rest i'd had I was in agony every pedal of the way - the planned route of heading via the motorway was thwarted by the Garda and all forty or so of us had to walk the entire 2km stretch of motorway before we got to the place where you could legally ride - not that there was much legal riding going on. And then we were there - just in time to see the end of an alley cat ld that day and to meet some of the hundred and fifty or so messengers who'd already arrived. Far to tired to do anythingexcept try to find my accommodation and find some form of sustance but there's a whole week where I can drink with those couriers and i'm sure they won't miss me tonight ...

King Of The Mountains

1 August - More cricks in the neck today - despite leaving relatively early me and Louis had what I thought was a fairly short Welsh breakfast but we must have ditehred because a couple of passing cyclists informed us we were at the back of the pack. A few accidental detours meant that we were really behind schedule - supposed to meet at Camarthen castle for lunch and when we finally made it there were no bikes to be seen. Asked the friendly guard if he'd seen any to which he replied in the negative and then asked him the time and he said 20 to 4. The directions we'd been given mentioned seemed to imply that the quickest way to get to the destination of Fishguard was to take the lanes and villages - what was only slightly implied was that they were kind of hilly. From Meidrim to Llanboidy to Cefynpat and Llanglydwen I found myelf on the toughest terrain I have ever ridden on a bike short of the mountains (where I at lkeast had a mountain bike). Constant descents or ascents of at least 20 degrees - some of them going for at least a mile - not so bad when you know the road and you know when you might have to stop but we had no knowledge beyond the next 10m at times and with both of us riding brakeless it was agonising as we hop skidded all the way which was followed by climbs so severe that w had to just walk the bikes up. As the roads ere so bad we were so determined not to get lost (as we had in the morning) that we frequently engaged the locals for advice - I can understand the irish, I can understand the scottish, I have a fairly good grasp of most of the english but the welsh just floor me. After babbling and gesticulatng for a few minutes the only discernible words were the frequent signoff statemet, 'Djaunderstandme?' - no sir, I didn't. Plan was to be back at Fishguard before 630 so we could get the ferry to ireland but that wasn't going to happen - our target was just getting there before it got dark. And we did. And upon arrival (pretty close to DFL) it turned out that we were one of the a very select group who even rode the mountains (well, hhills but steep ones) and there were even fewer who rode them on fixies so we were gods amongst men. Next ferry not until 230am and I need to get some sleep ...

You Take The Low Road, I'll Take The High Road

31 July - A lot more riding today - still in a lot of pain from previous day's effort but did seem to cope with it a bit better. Decided to pair up with Louis (i think that's his name), a Spaniard who worked in Berlin - as we found ourselves sliding behind schedule we took the shortcut which meant far too much over motored motorways - constantly grouping up with other riders, splitting up as one group outpaced the others and then joining up with new ones or rejoining the old ones. About midday crossed the Severn Bridge into my states namesake (it reallydoesn't look much like home at all - far too green) - ended up losing Louis just at the end of the ride which was a tad annoying and had an absolutely blistering ride into the campsite when I found myself tempoarily joined by a couple of the faster guys - headed into town for greasy food, beers and electricity to recharge the ipod - sleepingarrangements were once again, very sketchy, no barn this time but did manage to choose a relatively secluded verandah (at least it was off the ground) - I think I take this cheap travellingthing too fa sometimes.